How it works
Straight from the sun, solar energy can be used passively for light and heat; trapped in photovoltaic solar panel systems that convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity; or stored in batteries for future energy needs.


  • Everyone has access to the sun.
  • Solar energy is always absolutely nonpolluting … and quiet.
  • You can easily charge your laptop, cell phone, or camera battery with solar energy.


  • Relying solely on solar power can be pricey.
  • You may need to design (or redesign) your home to consider orientation to sun exposure, building materials that absorb and reflect the sun, and roof access for large solar panels (the roof space must face south and be unblocked by trees or buildings).

Solar energy emits no greenhouse gases. It’s a near-constant and powerful energy source.

Best choice for …
people with high electric rates and bills, or those who live in areas with frequent outages or brownouts (when demand for electricity exceeds generating capacity). Of course, it also helps to live in a sunny area.

Approximate cost
Solar water-heating systems cost $2,000 to $3,500; solar lights for your yard start at $40; and small-appliance battery chargers cost $20 or more. Installing rooftop solar panels costs $12,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on household energy needs.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Provides information on the federal government’s solar energy program and financial incentives for consumers.